West Virginians tend to have an intense passion for their state personally, yet demur when approached by outsiders — assuming that the news of lost coal jobs, of opioid abuse, of health crises has poisoned the well for mutual respect.
Not so with Katelyn Campbell, who wears her Mountain State flag proudly: When the 21-year-old graduated cum laude in the fall from Wellesley College, the all-women’s school known for producing Hillary Clinton, she wrote that her West Virginia public school education had “paid off in spades.”
Even her online dating profile is unapologetic: “App-uh-latch-uh til I die. 9th generation West Virginian and lifelong activist.”
Sitting at Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream in downtown Charleston, Campbell mentions that the hipster do-gooder business owed its origins in part to the Back to the Land movement in the early ’70s. It’s kind of her schtick — with history informing present things.
Campbell was just a senior at Charleston’s George Washington High School in 2013 when she made national headlines — after she protested her principal’s decision to solicit private donations to bring a pro-abstinence sex-ed teacher on campus. Her bold move earned her spots on the BBC, CNN and ABC, and speeches at nationwide conferences for pro-choice causes.
Since then, she’s been given the Youth Advocating Change Award by Partners in Sex Education and the Young West Virginia Power-Building Award, a nod to summers spent volunteering for greater access to safe water and birth control in rural parts of her state…